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IANS

The Kannada film industry, following in the footsteps of Tollywood, is all set to leave its mark on the pan-India market in the upcoming year.

Kannada films were once known for being mainly arthouse productions and festival circuit favourites, but with the commercial success of the action drama 'KGF-1', Sandalwood can claim to have arrived on the national screen. The industry is looking up to the sequel, 'KGF-2', which is slated to be released in July next year, to give it the boost it is so looking forward to.

After enjoying an exalted reputation for quite some time in the second half of the 1900s, when directors such as G.V. Iyer, M.S. Sathyu, Girish Karnad, B.V. Karanth and Girish Kasaravalli made headline news, the Kannada film industry has lived with the ignominy of being dubbed as the inferior cousin of Tollywood (Telugu), Kollywood (Tamil) and Mollywood (Malayalam) in terms of budgets, market penetration and content.

But it has been given a new lease of life by the rise of a pan-India superstar in the form of the 'KGF-1' star, Yash. The actor has also spoken about the Kannada film industry on various platforms and how he took it upon himself as a challenge to prove that it's on a par with other language film industries.

In the year going by, the Kannada film industry received a jolt when its superstar Puneeth Rajkumar met with a sudden death on October 29. With the entire state in a state of mourning over the loss of a beloved star, the producers of the big-budget movie 'Bajarangi' had to suffer huge financial setbacks.

The industry, however, managed to get the box office cash registers ringing again as large crowds welcomed 'Kotigobba-3' and 'Salaga'. Later, 'Garuda Gamana Vrushaba Vahana', 'Madagaja', 'Badava Rascal' and 'Rider' also managed to put up a good show at the box office and drew huge crowds despite the Omicron variant fears.

The much-anticipated events in the coming year will be the posthumous release of the Puneeth Rajkumar-starrer documentary 'Gandhada Gudi', directed by the popular wildlife documentary filmmaker J.S. Amoghavarsha, and the commercial movie 'James' directed by Chetan Kumar. 'Gandhada Gudi', meanwhile, is expected to make a mark at the national level.

The producers and actors are now focusing more on pan-India presentations and expanding the canvas of their movies. After 'KGF-2', the Kichcha Sudeep-starrer 'Vikranth Rona' is slated to be a pan-India movie. This Anup Bhandari directorial is said to be one of the biggest releases of the Kannada film industry in the upcoming year.

Super Star Upendra, who's popular in Tollywood, is ready to make a grand entry on the national scene with 'Kabja', which is being produced in five languages, including Hindi. 'Home Minister', 'Trishulam' and 'Lagaam' are Upendra's other big movies which will be released in 2022.

'Banaras', starring Zaid Khan and Sonal Monteiro, has also been made on a huge canvas. The film is being released in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. The movie is directed by Jayatheertha.

Rakshith Shetty, known for his experiments, is rolling out '777 Charlie', which is about the journey of a dog named Charlie. The movie is to be released in Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu and Tamil. Shetty's 'Sapta Sagaradache Yello' has also generated a lot of curiosity and is most likely to make a mark nationally.

Director Prem is ready with his new experiment with newcomers 'Ek Love Ya' and Rishab Shetty is all set to rock with 'Bell Bottom 2'. Super Star Darshan is quietly busy with 'Kranthi'. After the success of the Telugu version of 'Robert', the actor is expected to expand the footprint of the Kannada film industry.

Dhruv Sarja's 'Martin', Abhishek Ambareesh's 'Bad Manners', Niranjan's 'Super Star', Dr Shivarajkumar's 'Veda', Srimurali's 'Bagheera' and Darling Krishna's 'Love Mocktail 2' are the most eagerly awaited movies of Kannada cinema in 2022.

Speaking to IANS, Umesh Banakar, a film producer and actor, stated that there is a steady increase in the number of pan-India projects led by the Kannada film industry. "There is still scope for content-oriented films," he stated, pointing out that the number of cinema theatres in Karnataka has come down to 650 to 675 from 1,700. "I owned three theatres. I had to close them down. It is difficult to compete with multiplexes and after digitization theatres are struggling," Banakar said.

Ba. Ma. Harish, former secretary of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, explained that even after the return of Covid-19, the Kannada film industry is abuzz. 'KGF-2' and 'Vikrant Rona' are all set for pan-India rollouts and even newcomers are taking up big projects. The Kannada film industry will soon be on a par, Harish said, with its Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam counterparts.

Kannada movies are also making their presence felt on OTT platforms. Dhananjay's 'Ratnan Prapancha' was the first big Kannada release on OTT and it managed to get a good response. 'Love Mocktail', 'Diya', 'Ikkat', 'French Biryani' are the movies that became popular on OTT.

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